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Sony Xperia Z1 Camera

Michael Sawh

By Michael Sawh



Our Score:


Sony Xperia Z1 - Camera Quality

The Z1 camera on paper, is the star of the show here. Jumping up from a 13-megapixel sensor to a 20.7 camera sensor, the Z1 also benefits from having a bigger 1/ 2.3-inch sensor putting it on par with most compact cameras and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.

Sony Xperia Z1 sample images 1

Photo taken in Manual mode at 20.7-megapixel resolution

It also means the sensor is bigger than the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 (both 1/ 3.0inch) and has the ability to let more light in. This should help deliver better, much clearer photos in low-light conditions and keep image noise to a minimum.

Sony Xperia Z1

Photo taken in manual mode at 20-megapixel resolution

There’s an LED flash and f/2.0 G lens combined with the sensor as well. There's no optical image stabilisation, but you do get Sony's BIONZ for mobile. This is an imaging processing engine adapted from Sony's range of cameras to generate a faster autofocus, more stable images and prevent shots from looking blurred.

To get things started there’s a transparent menu overlay to access the various camera modes including Superior auto, where picture settings are automatically adjusted. There’s also a manual mode, the ability to take sweeping panorama shots and a burst mode to take 30 shots continuously. The Xperia Z1 is initially set up to take 8-megapixel quality photos so you’ll need to go into manual mode to adjust the settings to take higher 20-megapixel stills.

Sony Xperia Z1 sample images 2

Photo taken in Superior auto mode at 8-megapixel resolution

The snapping performance is good but we were perhaps hoping for more. Using the Superior Auto Mode images are sharp and detailed with accurate colours. Manual mode improves things and the menu overlay makes it easy to quickly adjust settings like exposure levels and white balance. The camera can take some time to focus and the lack of image stabilization means capturing images without some blur can be tricky.

The low-light performance is on par with most smartphones in this department. Flash or no flash, images struggle to deliver truly sharp, detailed images compared to when you are in well-lit environments.

Taking the Z1 underwater (or into a bath tub), it offers surprisingly decent results. With the flash on, the photos are reasonably clear. It struggles without the flash, but as a makeshift underwater camera goes, it serves up decent snaps.

Sony Xperia Z1 sample images 7

Underwater shot taken in Superior auto mode at 8-megapixel resolution

When it comes to camera extras, Samsung has that department well sewn up but Sony does a pretty good job of it with the Z1 as well. Sony follows suit with a host of feature to enhance the use of the main camera.

First up is Social Live which lets you stream live video straight to Facebook. By simply connecting your Facebook account you can begin recording and let friends see the streaming footage.

Info Eye uses the camera to scan items like landmarks or book to generate information about the object. It sounds like a glorified Red Laser-like scanner app and that's pretty much what it is except we didn't have much luck getting it to pick out the books we tried to scan.

There’s also Picture Effect to add borders, filters, Fisheye look and AR Effect to add virtual scenes like a moving dinosaurs or masquerade masks.

Within the camera app you can actually add additional app content from Google Play and once downloaded appears alongside the pre-loaded content letting you select it straight from the screen

The Social Live is certainly the most interesting out of the bunch, but whether you would get much long term fun or use out of them we are not so sure.

Sony Xperia Z1

Photo taken in Nostalgia Picture Effect mode

Sony Xperia Z1

Photo taken with AR effect mode

Sony Xperia Z1 - Front-facing camera

The Z1 features a 2-megapixel front-facing camera matching the Galaxy S4 for resolution. It’s just slightly less than the 2.1-megapixel packed onto the front of the HTC One. The image and video quality is above average and the ability to stream and record 1080p video at 30fps is impressive if you are planning to use it for video conversations.

Sony Xperia Z1 - Video quality

The Z1 actually manages to shoot great full HD video at 30fps. Footage is clear and the audio capture particularly impresses. What it lacks in vibrancy it does make up for with clarity, and it’s some of the better video recording we’ve seen when compared to its rivals. You can of course shoot video underwater adding another dimension to the Z1’s filming capabilities.

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September 4, 2013, 2:58 pm

So I like the sound of this device...apart from one thing. 5" screen in an even bigger chassis? Yikes.

I've got an HTC one which I love...but which it was a slightly smaller screen (4.2-4.5" I guess) - even with long fingers like mine, this is a bit of stretch. Obviously the trade off is if you use it as a pmp then it's better for that than a smaller screen but really, you want something like a Nexus 7 for that (which is what I have).

It erks me that the small phones get lower specs - I know it's cover more of the market but if there was something the size of the HTC One Mini that had the HTC One's specs, I'd be happy. I don't mind the phone being a little chunkier than it is now to accommodate this.

Am I the only one?


September 4, 2013, 6:41 pm

Nope. I think they are missing a trick. I have an Xperia S and found the screen a good size, and was annoyed the Xperia ZR wasn't released in the UK. However I'm a big unit with big mits, and will probably get the Z1 once my S gives up.
I agree that core specs should not be downgraded with size.


September 5, 2013, 11:11 am

I think there's not much Sony could do about the thickness because of the camera. However a full specced Z1 with a 4.3 or 4.5-inch screen would be great. I wonder whether research suggests that consumers go for bigger screen when faced with similar priced models. I will ask.


September 5, 2013, 12:31 pm

If you already have "BOX" 50gb storage from a previous Xperia phone offer then an upgrade without a "cloud" deal on this does not matter. Of course you do get sonys memories cloud storage and can easily add google drive & MS skydrive cant you?
I have pre ordered mine and get a free smartwatch2 which I guess might replace the "euro100" media bundle?

Jack P.

September 5, 2013, 1:02 pm

So, is this the way it's heading? Bigger and bigger smartphones? By the end of 2014 we'll watch movies from the 90's and not laugh when presented to phones from that decade because that size of a brick will be perfectly normal...Geez! The HTC One Mini has a perfect sized screen. The HTC One however is too big. The Z1 is gigantic. If I'm out for a drink or in a club I wouldn't know where to place my Z1! Too big for my 5-pocket jeans and I don't wear jackets inside a club/bar. Women can just slide it into their clutches. Guys normally don't walk around with those. I don't like to admit it but Steve Jobs was right. 3.5-4" screens are enough for smartphones. You want to go bigger, you buy an iPad (Mini)/tablet. A 5" screen? Seriously?!


September 5, 2013, 4:35 pm

Personally the thickness doesn't bother me if it dealt with ergonomically (which it seems this is?) - it's the sheer size. As beardybuck has said, even users with big hands will struggle with a 5" device to use it one handed.

And then there's the thing of looking like a tool when you make a call on a Galaxy Note 2...

If the HTC One Mini had the specs of the HTC One in it's footprint (save the thickness, something's gotta give and a few more mm there would be okay - I reckon you'd be able to accommodate 3mm extra depth on the minis chassis - it would be awesome!


September 5, 2013, 7:33 pm

My Xperia Z is water damaged. Can't believe it. Its about as waterproof as a piece of paper. All the waterproof propaganda from Sony is total bull****

Jonathan Morris

September 5, 2013, 8:36 pm

The Z1 fitted fine in my pocket when I tried it today, and I've got a Z in my pocket right now. I can even squeeze a Nexus 7 in my back (jeans) pocket!

The Z1 actually feels thinner than the Z. It isn't, but the design and more rounded edges gives the feeling... but bear in mind that if you're not after a phone that big, Sony has a 'mini' version in the works - and unlike the HTC One mini or the Galaxy S4 mini, it should still retain both the 20.7MP camera and Snapdragon 800. It will probably have a 720p screen though (but still a very high PPI).

It's a shame the Xperia ZR was never released widely, as that sounds like the phone for you. Smaller, but still with the same camera and CPU/GPU. Maybe hold out for the Z1 mini, or whatever it will be called?

Jonathan Morris

September 5, 2013, 8:38 pm

There's a mini version on the way. Not sure if that could be the big release at CES 2014. If it isn't, and they have something even better, that could make the Z1 a very short lived flagship!

Totally agree about the ZR though. I was half tempted to buy one when I was in Sweden but it was too expensive (looking on high-street though!). Operators obviously thought the SP and Z was enough.

They're probably right. I do hope that Sony moves towards releasing handsets like this on an annual basis, not every 6 months. The Z1 has many improvements, no doubt, but it still looks and feels mostly the same - it's the iPhone 4S/5S of the Xperia range.

Jack P

September 6, 2013, 11:25 am

Thanks for the tips Joanathan. I never knew about a Z1 "Mini" in the works. I hope it's true and that SONY will release it worldwide. My only gripe with the HTC One Mini is that the specifications are modified. No optical image stabilization is also a disadvantage. It also feels a little cheap at a premium price (build quality and spec wise). The Optimus G is a prime example of how to make an affordable smartphone without compromising the specifications. The software that LG provide isn't almost the most exciting or most up-to-date but it works.

Jonathan Morris

September 6, 2013, 1:00 pm

The ZR only compromised the screen and that was fine because you don't need 1080p on a smaller display. I hope the Z1 mini will be exactly the same.

But, operators have to be selective and can't range every single phone. I think another factor (speaking as someone who has worked on the trade side) is that operators are probably asking manufacturers to drop the specs and build to a price. It seems they were all happy with the S4 Mini and HTC One mini, and most of them opted to take the SP. It means it's quite probable they might not take the Z1 mini either.

Still, you can of course buy from any other EU country pretty easily and enjoy the same warranty. I had a brief play with the ZR and it was great, especially with a big choice of colours.

Jack P.

September 8, 2013, 11:35 am

How did it happen? As far as I know you have to make sure that all rubber "flaps" are in place before exposing it to water.

Personally, I would never expose my smartphone to running water. Waterproof or not. I would use it in the rain though without being nervous about it. But running water? No. You should also be aware that moist can enter the phone without exposing it directly to water. Drastic changes in temperature can cause moist inside the phone. It can even occur in water resistant/proof watches.

Dany Gombert

September 9, 2013, 1:04 pm

How did you use it?

I did test mine to take underwater pictures with it without problem.


September 10, 2013, 9:14 pm

it was inside my pocket and i was enjoying rain when i checked phone its stopped working all of sudden nothing is displaying when i connects charger red light comes . when visit sony service center they replied that water damage doesn't comes under warranty if i pay 80% of the total cost of phone they will replace it to the new one . dany i personally suggest you don't be 100% rely on this gadget that it is totally waterproof if any damage gone u will be screwed because sony reply us this phone cannot be repair and open and in case of water damages phone cannot be replace as per their policy . i never ever gonna use sony gadgets again


September 12, 2013, 7:16 pm

Interesting l use my phone for GPS and Strava as l commute daily by bike its been rained on so many times dunked it in water dropped it so many times. works perfectly. l am usually very careful still making sure all the ports are covered.


September 13, 2013, 8:28 am

man where do you stay if in pune india i could most definately help u


September 13, 2013, 1:57 pm

Where did you preorder to get a free smartwatch 2? That sounds too good to be true! :)


September 15, 2013, 4:46 pm

re the screen protector....is this something that you can remove? Also, does this mean buying a front screen protector is pointless if it is removable? Am expecting mine to arrive on friday but I could do with getting case/protector ordered and here for then.

Simão Lúcio

September 20, 2013, 3:08 pm

yes you can remove it


September 20, 2013, 5:44 pm

What about the sound quality of z1 in earphones and it's speaker? I am having z and it's sound quality is very much disappointing. Interested in buying z1 if the sound quality has been improved.

James Earley

September 20, 2013, 9:20 pm

All Xperia Z1 owners get 5 free Sony Pictures films plus one more unannounced film and a 60 day trial to Sony Music Unlimited.


September 21, 2013, 10:06 pm

Obviously no electronic device in completely waterproof. I would ask sony under what conditions this is true. Perhaps you didnt have the ports covered? I wanted to ask them a question myself.

Jim Tapia

September 22, 2013, 7:19 pm

You must wear girly skinny jeans!!! I am by no means a big guy but my note 2 slides into my calvin kleins with no problem. Maybe your to fat in which case a pink iphone 5s is for u.


September 22, 2013, 8:43 pm

i stay in shalimar bagh delhi my friend


September 22, 2013, 8:44 pm

about 80% of the mobile users experiencing same problem i guess u come in rest of 20% lucky one

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